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Pet Food News
on October 26, 2011

Veterinarians claim 'free' Hill's Prescription Diet cat food samples not really free

Veternarians say that Hill's signed them up for automatic ordering after accepting "free" samples of new cat food.

Veterinary clinics across the United States are complaining after accepting offers of free “starter kits” of Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s Prescription Diet y/d Feline Thyroid Health formula, but then being billed for and shipped more petfood that the clinics claim was not ordered.

On a message board of the Veterinary Information Network, an online community for veterinary professionals, the veterinarians claim they accepted the free petfood samples, but were unaware that doing so automatically signed them up for paid orders from Hill's, as well.

“As far as I know, I never signed any type of documentation that would initiate the auto delivery,” said a veterinarian in Florida, USA, who posted the experience on VIN. “The Hill’s representative did not mention that more food would be ordered and billed.”

Hill’s Pet Nutrition denied using unauthorized automatic ordering to market the product. In a statement to VIN News Service via email, the company said:

“Hill’s intention is to ensure that veterinarians providing starter kits of Prescription Diet y/d have an adequate supply to meet the ongoing feeding needs of pet owners for their cats. Our integrity and our relationship with the veterinarian community are of paramount importance to Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

“Hills does not participate in, nor does it condone, unauthorized automatic shipment programs. We strive to be clear with all our customers about our ordering and delivery process. We regret any confusion and as always, are prepared to honor our generous return policy for veterinary customers.”

“If you’re going to engage in this kind of marketing practice, which can be legitimate, you’ve got to disclose upfront: ‘This is what to expect. This is what we’ll be sending you every month, and what we’ll be billing you.’ You must give full disclosure upfront,” Frank Dorman, Federal Trade Commission spokesman, said.

In a consumer alert titled Free Trials' Aren't Always Free, FTC urges anyone who feels he or she has been wrongly charged for a free trial offer to report it to the agency.

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